As we propel forward towards open military service for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, we should remember that intersex and transgender people will continue to be prohibited from joining the military services when the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT) is implemented.

Thumbnail Link: DODINST 6033.03 - Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military ServicesThe relevant Department Of Defense Instruction (DODINST) is DODINST 6033.03, entitled Medical Standards for Appointment, Enlistment, or Induction in the Military Services; dated April 10, 2010. Enclosure 4 of this instruction, entitled Medical Standards For Appointment, Enlistment, Or Induction, is the one that indentifies the preclusion of transgender and intersex people from serving in the military.

Below are some relevant paragraphs/subparagraphs from the instruction.

Paragraph 14. (Female Genitalia), subparagraph e.:

History of major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia such as change of sex (P64.5) (CPT 55970, 55980), hermaphroditism, pseudohermaphroditism, or pure gonadal digenesis (752.7).

Paragraph 15. (Male Genitalia), subparagraph l.:

History of major abnormalities or defects of the genitalia such as change of sex (P64.5) (CPT 55970, 55980), hermaphroditism, pseudohermaphroditism, or pure gonadal dysgenesis (752.7).

(The American Medical Association’s Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes referenced are for intersex surgery.)

Paragraph 28. (Learning, Psychiatric, And Behavioral), subparagraph r.:

Current or history of psychosexual conditions (302), including but not limited to transsexualism, exhibitionism, transvestism, voyeurism, and other paraphilias.

For those who are already in the military that paragraph 28.l. applies to are subject to a “personality disorder” discharge. Below is what the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network’s (SLDN’s) old Survival Guide stated about currently serving transsexuals (beginning on Page 51; bolded/italicized emphasis added):

[More below the fold.]

Currently Serving Members

Transsexuals, persons who are born with the wrong biological gender, who are thinking about coming out or starting their transition while in the military, should be aware of a strong bias against recognizing the standard of care involving hormone therapy, living in the appropriate gender, and surgery. Thumbnail Link: Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) Survival GuideThe military medical system does not support the Harry Benjamin standard of care185 and will not provide the medical support necessary for transitioning service members. Generally, the services apply physical standards that make transsexualism a disqualifying condition which impacts on military fitness and a basis for a non-medical discharge. Transsexual service members also face the possibility of being discharged for having a personality disorder.

Service members who seek psychological or medical treatment through the military should know that conversations with military health-care providers are not confidential and any statement concerning being transgender can, and most likely will, be reported to their commands and separation proceedings begun. For those members who seek treatment from civilian providers, beware that each service has regulations governing military members seeking outside health care and may include reporting requirements. Failure to abide by these regulations could potentially place a member at risk for UCMJ action. Further, crossdressing as part of the transition process, even when prescribed by competent medical providers, may be considered a violation of the UCMJ and can potentially be prosecuted at court-martial.

Because the potential exists for the military to apply the rules of the homosexual conduct policy to transgender members, it is important to not make any statements about sexual conduct, even to military health care providers. For example, the military would view a pre-operative male-to-female transsexual, self-described as a heterosexual female, having sexual relations with males to be committing homosexual acts subject to administrative and disciplinary proceedings.

While anecdotal stories of individuals who have transitioned while in the reserves and were allowed to remain in the military have been heard, SLDN has not documented any case where a known transsexual has been allowed to continue in the service.

Any service member considering transitioning while in the military should consult with an attorney knowledgeable about military law and transgender issues first.

A Personality Disorder is defined, for example, in Bureau of Navy Personnel Instruction (BUPERSINST) 1900.8B, this way:

Personality disorder, order, not amounting to a disability, but which potentially interferes with assignment to or performance of duty.

With the Separation Program Designator (SPD) code for Personality Disorder, one receives an RE-3G or an RE-4 reenlistment code on one’s DD214 (Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty).

Also, a discharge with an SPD code that indicates a Personality Disorder may come with a General Under Honorable Conditions discharge. The Army Times describes administrative discharges this way (emphasis added):

When you get discharged from the military, you are either administratively discharged or punitively discharged. The overwhelming majority of discharges are administrative and fall into one of three categories: honorable, general under honorable conditions, and other than honorable.

Clearly, an honorable discharge is the most preferable. It means that your period of service was an honorable one – though it may not have been perfect; even a service member with a court-martial conviction or an Article 15 on his record for a petty offense can still receive an honorable discharge.

A general discharge under honorable conditions is meant for those who generally performed honorably but had some problems. The most common reasons for a general discharge that I’ve seen are alcohol or drug abuse, excessive absences, Article 15 reasons and, occasionally, mental health problems.

If one is discharged for being transgender, then one’s discharge my have coding on it that may make it hard for employment after service — Employers can readily find information on different kinds of discharges and the codes entered on DD214s.

When lesbian, gay, and bisexual people are allowed to serve openly, intersex, genderqueer, and transsexual people — as well as crossdressers — won’t be allowed to serve openly. And, if one enlists for military service while being closeted as transgender, then if one is later found to be transgender — or one during one’s service comes to the realization one is transgender, one’s discharge certificate may be a personal “job killer.”


For those who aren’t aware of what intersex means, let me give some definitions. From the GLAAD Media Reference Guide:

Describing a person whose biological sex is ambiguous. There are many genetic, hormonal or anatomical variations that make a person’s sex ambiguous (e.g., Klinefelter Syndrome). Parents and medical professionals usually assign intersex infants a sex and perform surgical operations to conform the infant’s body to that assignment. This practice has become increasingly controversial as intersex adults speak out against the practice. The term intersex is not interchangeable with or a synonym for transgender.

Curtis E. Hinkle of Organisation Intersex International described intersex in this way in his article Am I intersex?:

For those of you who were officially assigned female at birth:

  1. Do you have a clitoris which is much larger than that of others?
  2. Do you have much more body hair than most other “females”?
  3. Do you have a very “male” body shape?
  4. Do you have XY or XO chromosomes?
  5. Do you have androgen levels (male hormones) much higher than most other “females”?

For those of you who were officially assigned male at birth:

  1. Do you have a penis which is very small or with a urinary opening located in a place not typical for other “males”?
  2. Do you have breasts much larger than other “males”?
  3. Do you have undescended testicles?
  4. Do you have very low testosterone levels?
  5. Do you have XX, XXY, XXXY, etc. chromosomes?

If you answered “yes” to any of the questions above, you are intersex. We could make the list much longer. However, this gives you an overall idea of what intersex is – simply being of intermediate sex, somewhere between standard male or female or not having a body that meets the norms for “standard” male or female. You might have the impression that this is unscientific. Quite the contrary. This is actually more scientific than the method used to determine your official sex within the binary. Most likely, your official sex was determined by looking at your genitalia. This is not scientific at all. It reduces all people to a very essentialist definition of what a man or a woman is based on one body part and neglecting all other parts of our sexual/reproductive anatomy and genetic makeup, while ignoring the most important aspect of our identity, which is our gender.


Further reading:

* The Daily Beast: Don’t Call Them Hermaphrodites

* OII: Official Positions

* OII: OII: Organisation Intersex International



* The Scientific Problem With Sex And Gender Dichotomies

* What Would The Repeal Of DADT Mean For Transgender Servicemembers?

* NCTE Warns Transgender Servicemembers Regarding DADT And Coming Out Trans

Autumn Sandeen

Autumn Sandeen